ByÂ Vidushi Singla:
You may love him or you may hate him, but, you cannot ignore him. Such is the overwhelming presence of Chetan Bhagat in the Indian popular media. While the quantum of sale of his books bears witness to the fact that most people choose to love him, the literature enthusiasts for one, have a propensity for the latter. I, not being particularly a Chetan Bhagat admirer, wilfully confess that his bookÂ 2 States: The Story of My Marriage, left a trail of smile on my face and an impression on my callow mind, the first time I read it. The impact was such that it made me ponder over the reasons for its success.
1. The carnival of marriage
In a country where marriages are celebrated at par with festivals, any story that draws its action from the theme of marriage, is a guaranteed success. Marriages in our country are a way to flaunt wealth and reaffirm social standing in a society obsessed with spectacle. This explains the success of ‘the Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in print’. It plays on people’s sentiments associated with this age old tradition. While it makes the married nostalgic, it inspires the fantasy of the unwedded. Just as the carnival of marriage has ensured that Sooraj Barjatya never runs out of business on celluloid, similarly it ensured that Chetan Bhagat did not go wrong with this one.
2. A reiteration of the stereotypes
There is no better way to penetrate the psyche of people than to reiterate the ideas that have already been unquestioningly accepted as facts by the people at large. This technique invariably operates in the novel as ample stereotypes find resonance during its course. To begin with, the stereotypical notion of ‘opposites attract’ forms the central idea of the novel. The two protagonists, the girl and the boy, are from Tamil Nadu and Punjab respectively. These two states are not just geographically opposed to each other but are also supposedly very different, culturally. Here too, it’s about a pretty girl who is the first to kiss but not the first to propose, and about a nerdy guy who conveniently sits in judgement of this pretty girl.
The introduction of such misogynistic ideas finds an extension in the stereotype of the relationship equation of the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law, where the mother of the boy is overtly possessive about him and has a complete disregard for the daughter-in-law.
Also, it hammers home the stereotype of the ill-read but ostentatious North-Indians, and the well-read but carelessly dressed South-Indians, thus, playing out to the cultural disparity.
3. Voyeuristic titillation
With constant sexual references to the girl’s eyes, neck, hair and ears, the novel ensures that the readers are kept on tenterhooks. Add to this, the sporadically interspersed lip locks; and the voyeuristic instincts of the readers are unfailingly aroused to anxiously await consummation of love.
4. ClichÃ©d, yet pan-Indian emotions
The setting of the novel, IIM-A, caters to the country’s frantic preoccupation with the elitist institution. An insight into the lives of the supposedly ‘best minds’ in the country, always invites an enthusiastic response from the people. It strikes a chord with the aspirations of the people.
In addition to this, a happy ending touches the nerve of the readers in a society that is customarily infatuated with ‘the happily ever afters’ and the idea of parenthood.
The novel has been written in the conversational language which effortlessly translates into Hindi. Even though the language at times has not been found to be grammatically accurate, nor do the plot and style of writing match up to the conventional literary standard, yet, the simplicity of Bhagat’s writing makes the novel immensely popular.
So, the next time you read 2 States, take note of the subtleties that play on your preconceived notions, ideas and expectations to create a hypnotic effect that leads you into liking whatever the author writes.